Thousands of tenants hoping to redeem the ground rent of their property under a Lands Authority scheme are being charged an administration fee of €1,000 – more than six times the cost of applying for a previous scheme.

The hike has been justified on grounds that the Lands Authority is no longer willing to incur some of the costs involved in processing the application.

Around 5,000 families will benefit from the scheme, announced in September. It applies to those living in homes administered by the Joint Office, which is responsible for properties that were transferred to the government by the Church in line with a 1992 agreement. 

The ultimate objective of the scheme is to give tenants who have temporary emphyteusis or rent the opportunity to acquire full ownership of their homes.

The details of the expenses involved to submit an application were revealed in an answer to a parliamentary question tabled by Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi.

In his reply, Minister Ian Borg said applicants would have to a pay a non-refundable €1,000 administration fee, which he acknowledged was more than six times the €150 fee charged in a similar 2012 scheme.

He said the application fee was higher because the Lands Authority was no longer willing to incur costs associated with processing the application. Dr Borg noted that, under the previous scheme, applicants had to submit copies of the registration plans and other documentation at their own expenses.

When applicants previously submitted plans that were not in line with the criteria established by the Land Registry, the Lands Authority would have to redraft them from scratch, the minister said. This process involved expenses, including onsite inspections and the purchasing of plans, he added.

The increased administration fee also included other legal expenses such as researches, copies of contracts, notarial services and, at times, legal advice.

Dr Borg pointed out that, in addition to these considerations, the submission of incomplete documentation was resulting in delays in processing the applications.

The increase in the fee was also meant to expedite the scheme in the interests of applicants themselves, he said.

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